Blow vs. American Hustle

Blow (2001) was a film adaptation of the book, From the Inside about the cocaine industry in the United States during the 70s.  Delivered compliments of George Jung, the American smuggler connected with notorious Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder, and the Medellín Cartel, they were responsible for about 85 percent of the cocaine used during the 70s. It was one of my favorite performances by Johnny Depp. Directed by Ted Demme, who also played George Jung’s smuggling buddy, Archie, I thought it an incredible biopic with exceptional acting by the ensemble cast. It featured awesome music from the 70s to enhance the scene’s mood, great cinematography, sexy poisonous women, shady deals, FBI stings, greed and reinvention, gaudy clothes and one of the worst decades for men’s hair styles. Sound like another film you’ve recently seen?

Penelope Cruz, Ethan Suplee, Paul Reubens, and Ray Liotta gave outstanding performances.

David O. Russell, director and co-writer of American Hustle, has a knack for bringing out high energy performances from his actors. As was the case for The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, actors who join his team are often Oscar nominated. His magic with his ensembles makes him one of the top directors working today.

Narrators tell their stories in both films while trying to keep control. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale play their shady characters with enough charm for the audience to ignore their illegal and amoral behavior. After all, in George Jung’s case, being the American connection bridging ruthless Columbian drug dealers to a younger generation seduced by the charms of cocaine affected millions of people and destroyed how many lives in the process? George Jung is due to be released from prison in 2015 after spending the last 30 years in it. Depp made me feel for the criminal. What a powerful performance not to be missed.

Two themes in each film were the addiction of the chase and the greed for money. While the games people pay in the fast lane are intoxicating, was the price they paid worth it?  Which film do you think is better?

Here’s a trailer if you haven’t seen Blow.

29 thoughts on “Blow vs. American Hustle

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  1. Oh I haven’t seen BLOW yet but I should give that a rent at some point. I did enjoy American Hustle though, esp. Bale’s performance!


      1. Oh good then, that’s nice to hear. My ears burn very easily when it comes to profanity. I’m curious to see Depp’s performance here too, I generally like him as an actor.


    1. Hi! Well, it’s a curious chapter in US History so I like that. It’s a well made film and Ray Liotta was a nice guy for a change and added a needed dimension to humanize George Jung. I’d be happy to hear how you liked it if you get around to watching it 😉


    1. Hi there! Yes, knowing your tastes, I think you’d really enjoy Blow. It’s not a perfect film, but really, it’s solid acting, solid entertainment, and Johnny Depp acting. I liked the history behind it the most. I can’t believe George Jung stumbled into being one of the most far-reaching, notorious guys out there. He was the boy-next-door rubbing up against gangsters. Quite compelling.


  2. Didn’t like American Hustle – cuz i didn’t like the people. That’s my review.
    Blow was interesting because it was true and it didn’t sugar coat what drugs and excessive money will do to people. I will watch that again one day. And if you think that scene where he’s staggering around the house trying to finding some place to put that box of cash check this out:
    Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.


      1. Oh no! I really don’t know how to control that community widget on my blog, but for sure you are on my Friends of FlixChatter blog roll already 😀


  3. This is an apt comparison, and one of which I wouldn’t have thought. So great work.

    Which do I like more? I’d have to see it again to be certain, but probably Blow. Depp, as you say, is terrific. And I remember the story being tighter and the characters more developed than Hustle’s. But really, I like both movies. Which do you like more?


    1. I like Blow more because it’s about US history and we just studied Escobar and the War on Drugs in class so Jung’s story was relevant to me. I was a high school student in the late 70s so the music and the culture stands out to me. I really liked Depp’s acting here and I felt for the daughter and the father, Ray Liotta, relationship of father and son was important for humanizing the boy-next-door who became a serious drug smuggler. I really did like American Hustle–the energy and current trends in cinematography are evident while trying to appear and sound 70s seemed manufactured while Blow seamed more authentic. In American Hustle Bale’s acting was great and Amy Adams was marvelous. I’m not sure what it is about Cooper and Lawrence that seems over-the-top and a repeat of the scene-chewing that happened in Silver Lining as well as Hustle. Something about them grates on my nerves. Too manic rather than great acting. I could scream at the camera all day long, too. Maybe it’s just me. 😉


      1. I definitely liked Lawrence and Cooper. A lot.

        But I agree with your comparison, at least as much as I remember Blow (I only saw it once, in the theater, upon its release). Like I said before, I remember being wildly impressed with how well constructed it was and how well developed the characters were.


  4. Very interesting post! I would never have thought to compare the two movies, so I’m glad you did.

    They definitely have their similarities, but I think Blow is the superior movie, mostly because it has a discernible storyline. American Hustle was just all over the place, and not in a good way. But I don’t think either movie deserves “classic” status. If we’re talking about good “drug lord” movies, I’d say Layer Cake, with Daniel Craig, is a solid one.


    1. Hi Alina, so glad for your comments 🙂 Yes, I do like Blow better because of the history and the acting. I enjoyed American Hustle, Bale is the best out there, and I liked the plot twists. Thanks for the recommendation of Layer Cake. Why haven’t I seen it?


  5. Hi, Cindy:

    I’m going with Blow ! A much better depiction, execution and soundtrack regarding “conspicuous consumption” of the eighties..

    Also, no one wants to see a oily, kind of dumpy Cristian Bale. Kudos for going against character, but in American Hustle , it just didn’t work for me.

    Good catch with Alina and Layer Cake . James Broadbent plays a great mentor to Daniel Craig!

    Also recommend Karel Reisz’s Who’ll Stop The Rain for a more domestic, Post Vietnam look at a west coat Cat & Mouse game regarding Nick Nolte and three kilos of pure Laotian heroin.


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